Atlas Copco has marked its century of operations in the UK with a celebratory event at London’s Shard building, which included a look forward at how industrial technology might evolve over the next 100 years.
At a celebratory event in London, media and guests heard how Atlas Copco had been established in the UK with a single sales office selling diesel engines at the end of World War 1.
Now Atlas Copco is looking forward to the next 100 years of operations in the UK at a time when megatrends such as digitalisation, electrification and artificial intelligence are set to transform the face of modern industry.
“We are proud of our long history in the UK, and the future looks very bright,” said Alex Bongaerts, UK Holdings Manager at Atlas Copco. “In our opinion, there has never been a better time to be operating in the industrial sector. Digitally enabled technologies are transforming the way we design, build and operate equipment such as compressors. Indeed, Atlas Copco hopes the next 100 years will be as successful as our first century of operations in the UK.”
Guests at the 100 years of operations event heard how Atlas Copco had embarked on a significant process of electrification, with battery and hybrid products expected to reduce its carbon emissions by 50 per cent by 2030.
“One of the major areas of emphasis going forward will be the continued drive towards sustainability, particularly in terms of the electrification of equipment such as mobile compressors and generators, lighting towers and pumps,” said Bongaerts.
“Traditionally, much of this type of equipment has been driven by diesel engines, but in urban environments or events such as music festivals, there is a desire for cleaner and quieter performance. That is resulting in the development of a wide range of battery-powered and hybrid products, which deliver reductions in carbon emissions. The future will require all of our products to be designed with a great deal of environmental consideration in mind.”
Bongaerts explained how fast developing megatrends within the industry such as digitalisation, wireless connectivity, and AI will transform the face of modern industry over the coming years, creating leaner and greener future factories.
He continued: “The last century has seen a revolutionary development in compressed air, vacuum and associated technologies, which has led to product innovations that have had a major impact on energy efficiency and manufacturing productivity.
“As we look at the next century there will be exponential developments in 3D manufacturing techniques which will have a revolutionary effect on manufacturing as we know it, eliminating several processes that currently exist. Due to 3D printers situated close to the end customer it will be easier to deliver spare parts and conduct repairs locally.”
Bongaerts added that digital technology will make it easier to do business in the future as it will be quicker to find information; order the product you need and to get it delivered.
Smart connectivity has seen significant developments in terms of compressor control and communication technology, with intelligence being added to the air compressors that allows them to communicate over the internet. “Today, Atlas Copco has over 130,000 connected compressors (3,000 in the UK), operating at over 40,000 customer locations, delivering around 150 data measurements per second,” he added.
Analysis of this data is used to improve efficiencies – identify underused equipment; save energy; and spot maintenance issues before they lead to unexpected down-time.
With regards to renewable energy Bongaerts explained that there have been impressive changes underway within the automotive industry for example, and Atlas Copco maintains a strong association with its applications in its compressor and factory solutions worldwide.
“Batteries can only be made with the use of compressors and vacuum solutions. And well over half of our industrial techniques business stems from equipment, processes and software involved in the manufacturing of around 75% of the world’s cars.”
Further, company Director Kevin Prince, added: “ Obviously, we produce diesel engine driven equipment and we’re seeing lots of new legislation associated with emissions from that equipment. The new Stage V engine emission regulation comes in next year. So, things will change in the future.
“The increase in battery technology and the different types of drivers in our equipment are already starting to take effect. It’s a challenge because we make equipment that consumes energy but we’re very mindful of the fact that the way energy is consumed and where it comes from will play a large part in the future of our equipment.
“In current R&D procedures across all our business areas, the first issue that will be looked at will be the energy source, where it comes from and how we reduce its carbon footprint. This is followed closely by how we recycle - the environmental impact of our equipment is essential and is embedded within the design.
Bongaerts further explained how Atlas Copco are dedicated to its people and employees. He added that the company is seeing a trend towards home working, where employees can be connected anywhere, anytime. “With all the modern technology at our disposal this trend will continue. Young people coming into the world of work are looking for satisfaction from their job and more flexible working, and this is something we have adapted to in order to attract the best talent.
“While we know that it’s important to evolve with the employees we have today, we’re also keen to ensure we are appealing to the employees of the future. We run successful year in industry programmes, as well as programmes within engineering, marketing and business.
“But we go a step further. We have active relationships with primary and secondary schools, colleges and universities where we speak to the students about what a future in engineering can offer. In addition, historically our industry has been very male dominant and we are also working hard to change that and promote the benefits of a diversified workforce.
“To be a leading industrial company we need to offer a range of products and service solutions. Our industrial ideas empower our customers to grow and drive society forward. This is how we believe we are creating a better tomorrow.
“The fifth digital revolution means that companies can work more smartly, efficiently, quickly, safely, and cleanly in an emission-free and resource conscious ecosystem.”